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North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is Stepping Down as Chair of Intelligence Committee During Insider Trading Investigation

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North Carolina Senator Richard Burr announced his decision to temporarily step down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee during a federal investigation into his alleged insider trading activities.

The speculation of insider trading came about after reports surfaced that Burr allegedly sold stocks after attending secret briefings on the threat of the Wuhan virus pandemic.

“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared in a statement. “We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”

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Burr was part of a group of senators who sold holdings earlier in 2020 when intelligence officials were holding closed-door meetings about the looming threat of the Wuhan virus. Burr has denied partaking in illegal insider trading activities.

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The North Carolina Senator will not run for re-election in 2022.

Burr said in a statement that his decision to step down from his position was needed so that the committee could “continue its essential work free of external distractions.”

Burr’s office has maintained that his stock sales were not connected to any information he received through his position as leader of the Intelligence Committee, which receives multiple briefings about threats the country is potentially facing.

The North Carolina Senator sold 33 stocks on February 13 with a total value ranging from $628,000 and $1.7 million, as stated in his disclosure form. ProPublica first reported the sales. Three of the assets that Burr sold were in hotel companies, which have seen their value collapse due to the global lockdowns caused by the Wuhan virus pandemic.

The Stock Act of 2012 has banned members of Congress and federal officials from trading on nonpublic information about regulatory or legislative decisions that has yet to be decided on. The law also mandated them to publicly disclose stock transactions within 45 days after realizing them, on top of the annual disclosure listing assets and liabilities.

Ideally, Burr would resign from the Senate altogether. Such graft should not be tolerated in Congress.

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Will Josh Hawley be the Next Champion for an America First Foreign Policy?

America First May Have its Next Leader to End Wars Abroad

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Does America First have a new non-interventionist champion?

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has been viewed by many as one of the figures who could potentially lead a Trumpist movement after Trump, should Joe Biden end up being installed as president on January 2021.

Hawley has made a name for himself as a champion of Middle America and questioning the neoliberal orthodoxy on immigration and trade. Lately, Hawley has made a pivot towards  questioning the interventionist conventional wisdom on foreign policy. 

In early October of this year, the Missouri Senator called for the American government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Hawley tweeted, “Almost 20 years now in Afghanistan. Long past time to draw this war to an end.”

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Hawley’s foreign policy has been a work progress over the past two years. During a 2019 speech Hawley gave at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), he questioned the nation-building policy prescriptions of previous administrations, demonstrating some degree of skepticism towards non-stop interventionism abroad on the part of the Senator.

That said, it remains to be seen if Hawley’s legislative record will fully match his rhetoric.

Hawley is a staunch China hawk, who fears the rise of China and is a strong voice against China’s expansionist efforts. Hawley’s track record shows that his foreign policy views are rough around the edges. Daniel Larison of The American Conservative is not as optimistic about Hawley judging by his votes on the Yemeni Civil War. Larison cited several of Hawley’s votes that may be cause for concern:

Sen. Hawley voted against the Senate’s resolution of disapproval that opposed the president’s effort to circumvent Congress with a bogus “emergency” to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. More important, he voted with the president and most Senate Republicans against the antiwar Yemen resolution that would have cut off all U.S. support to the Saudi coalition.”

Nevertheless, Hawley’s comments on Afghanistan are a good sign that Hawley is catching on to the fact that Americans are tired of foreign wars. Politicians can change their views and behaviors. Hawley is likely recognizing that the America First movement is exhausted by the endless wars and wants candidates and elected officials who offer withdrawal plans. 

After looking at the list of people who have been tapped to join the Biden administration, Hawley tweeted, “What a group of corporatists and war enthusiasts – and #BigTech sellouts.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, a fierce interventionist skeptic, maintained cautious optimism about Hawley. In a tweet, he commented, “All kinds of reasons to be skeptical of the authenticity here, but — purely as a matter of rhetoric — just imagine any national Republican speaking this way about a Dem administration even 10 years ago. The framework of politics is radically shifting.”

The jury is still out on Hawley. Regardless of flaws in his voting record, America First advocates should continue to push him and other America First leaning Republicans in the right direction. We should never forget that politicians are still receptive to political pressure and the grassroots holds the keys to political change. 

Young senators like Hawley are the future of American politics and it makes sense for foreign policy restrainers to lobby them and push them in a direction that favors non-interventionism.

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